It was not the result the U.S. WNT had in mind to kick off the 2017 Tournament of Nations, but despite the 1-0 loss to Australia in a hard-fought game on Thursday night in Seattle, U.S. head coach Jill Ellis found a lot of good to focus on as the long road to 2019 continues.
“It’s the process I’m in, in terms of looking at other players to make sure that we have a good core moving forward,” Ellis said following the match at CenturyLinkField. “It is about giving opportunities to people like Taylor Smith. We came out on the unfortunate side, and congratulations to Australia, and we’re obviously disappointed with the result, but this is part of a process were in. We’re still a year and a bit away from qualifying, so it is about giving players experience and putting them in the pressure cooker. That’s why tournaments like these are so important for us, it’s why we need to bring in these great teams to play against.”
Abby Dahlkemper got her second career start against Australia on July 27.
Against Australia, Ellis gave defender Taylor Smith her first cap and first start. She gave Abby Dahlkemper her second consecutive start, and had Alyssa Naeher in goal for the third consecutive time, a first for the Connecticut native.
“It’s important to check boxes,” Ellis said about her objectives during games at this point in the cycle. “This is about giving Alyssa Naeher more minutes. It’s giving Abby Dahlkemper her fifth cap and giving Taylor Smith her first start. It’s giving Megan Rapinoe her first 90 minutes in a long time. She played really well.”
Rapinoe got her first start since the final group game of the 2016 Olympics Games on Aug. 9, 2016 against Colombia.
With 24 hours to go before its next game, the U.S. WNT will now take the lessons learned, shake off the loss, and direct all focus towards its next two opponents as the chance to lift the ToN trophy remains in sight. The experience gained by several new and younger players will continue to play a crucial part in the development of the depth on the team.
The U.S. WNT will next face Brazil on Sunday, July 30 (5 p.m. PT; ESPN2) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Australia faces Japan in the first game at 2:15 p.m. PT on ESPN3).